As we stumble into the muck and mire of another presidential campaign, the rules of the contest seem more than ever to resemble the cow-pie tossing competitions still staged in rural America.
In those poopular (is there a better word?) events, the idea is to de-emphasize the composition of the dung being flung, ignore its malodorousness (yep, there IS jest sech a word, Podner), and throw as much of it as you can as far as you can.
At the risk of spreading this unpleasant metaphor too far, it is important to point out that one major difference in the political practice of this sport is that the "Number Two" is purely rhetorical and is hurled in the hope that, deservedly or not, some of it will stick to the opposition.
Although every such contest ends with but a single winner, and one or more losers, the major casualties are the truth, the whole truth and anything abutting the truth.
Contestants point with unreserved pride to the veracity, integrity, dedication, selflessness, virtue, fairness, patriotism, brilliance, competence and moral hygiene of the candidates they favor, which the objects of their lionization never deny.
With equal passion and undisguised revulsion, they view with alarm their adversaries' capital sins, both personal and political, which cry to governmental heaven for vengeance.
During the primary season, the "outs" fall upon each other like sharks in a feeding frenzy, only to join in loud and lusty choruses of "Kumbaya" once a candidate has been crowned. At that point, the knives and hatchets are withdrawn from family backs and redirected to those of the common enemy.
Meanwhile, if an "in" is in contention, he has the luxury of girding his loins and gorging his piggy bank for the gladiatorial spectacle scheduled to follow the hollow hooplah of the national conventions.
In both the primary and general election contests, the rules are the same, which is to say that there are nearly none, except prohibitions against physical dismemberment and any admission of imperfection, however slight and irrelevant.
Within those minimal restrictions, the combatants – and, to an even greater extent, their devoted sycophants and anonymous sugar daddies – are free to engage in character assassination, selective amnesia, revision of history, hypocrisy, strange bedfellowship, and position-shifting that would, again metaphorically, rival the gyrations of a Preparation H dependent
They also consider themselves free – nay, compelled – to avoid answering difficult questions, pander to the prejudices of their supporters, adjust their principles to those of the audiences du jour, tailor their legislative objectives to blend with those of contributors, temporarily shelf their politically incorrect views, make entangling alliances that never see the light of public scrutiny, and ascribe none of the seven virtues to anyone with even a slightly opposing view.
Behind a flimsy veil of impartiality, the mess (not a typo) media clusterbombs the airwaves, and what remains of the print press, with slanted messagery; this sheds bright light on politically acceptable propaganda and shunts what doesn't fit a prescribed mold to token representation on discussion panels and exile in the vicinity of legal notices and Viagra ads.
This segregation of the news and opinion – with seriously blurred distinctions between the two – is practiced by both the left and right, although nearly no one on either side will own up to their biases. For evidence of this, shuttle between Fox News and MSNBC at almost any hour of the day or night.
Pervasive in all these dark deeds are the fine arts of "spinning," misquotation, excerpting out of context, question-dodging, and responding to an unanswerable allegation with an unrelated countercharge of even greater depravity.
These techniques are employed to camouflage and/or deodorize everything from trivial fibs to pants-on-fire lying.
The victims of all this are those of us who are exposed to sloganeering, talking points, bumper stickers, carefully implanted rumors, stupefying statistics, soaring rhetoric, pandering political hacks, spamjamming of our computers, bullscatting on our airwaves, and an unceasing barrage of robo-calls which violate the peace and privacy of our homes.
If the truth is to be found in all of this, it is only after we have dug our way through the flat-out lying and subtle misdirection which are impenetrable obstacles to government "by" and "for" the people, while the "of" function is hijacked by a self-serving minority with forked tongues, devious objectives and easy consciences.
May God shed His grace on "we, the people" this year. Seldom have we needed it more!
Freelance wordworker Joe Klock Sr. winters in Key Largo and Coral Gables, Fla., and summers in New Hampshire.